The Five-Minute Buddhist Books

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Question: Am I One?

Q&A #11


A Reader recently wrote:


I was taught to meditate by my martial arts instructor many years ago. I meditate 4 times a week. I have never had a Buddhist instructor but listen to six Buddhist podcasts a week and read books dealing with Zen. I try to live my life by the Eightfold Path. Am I considered a Zen Buddhist if I am basically self-teaching myself?


My Response


I’d ask my Zen Master, but I don’t have one either. They’re bit hard to find here in Ohio.


A Zen “purist” would probably say no, you need a master to learn Zen, but I am not so sure that is really true. Remember, these old lineage traditions were mostly oral, passed down from generation to generation. With today’s literacy levels, modern multimedia materials, and such easy communication, things may be different today. You have more Buddhist material available at the touch of your fingers right this second than most monks could have ever hoped to access in their lifetimes. You also have the benefit of their distilled, cleaned-up and edited teachings to help you along the path.

Still, you and I have no individual master to teach us, and it is going to be an uphill battle because of that. Zen masters aren’t exactly common in this part of the world so we just have to do the best we can with what we have. I listen to several podcasts and read a lot as well, but I am in no way a master or even close to enlightenment. I have pretty serious university training on the subject, but I’ve never been a monk. I don’t even have a local sangha/church to attend around here. But Zen is my “flavor of choice” in Buddhism, and I do what I can to progress with it.

Will I achieve enlightenment on my own? Probably not, but it is theoretically possible, and at the very least I’ll be in a better position next time around.

If a real Zen Master wanders past your house, follow him, but it the meantime, keep up what you are doing.

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